How to Protect the Feeding Habitat of the Horseshoe Bat

How to Protect the Feeding Habitat of the Horseshoe Bat
Horseshoe bats are members of the Rhinolophidae family, named for the flap of skin around their nostrils that resembles a horseshoe. There are greater and lesser horseshoe bats among the variety of species, and new species still are being discovered. Protecting their feeding habitat is a complex issue, one that would depend on the cooperation of nations in Europe, Asia and Africa. Protection of habitat is vital to the survival of the bat, which is rapidly becoming a threatened species.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Understanding

Step 1
Educate yourself on the habitats of the bat. Horseshoe bats in the United Kingdom tend to prefer wooded areas in spring and pastures in summer. They prefer steep, south facing slopes, live and hibernate in caves (away from humans) and raise their young in abandoned buildings.

Mediterranean horseshoe bats consume Lepidopterans (moths), Tipulids (crane flies) and Scarabaeid beetles (Rhizotrogus). These bats were found to prefer similar terrain---open pasture land used for cattle grazing, a mixture of wooded treeline and hedgerows and steep hills with cave access.
Step 2
Understand the changes that occur in bat habits. Horseshoe bats undergo a period of winter hibernation. During that time, they leave hibernation to feed near their cave entrance.

They are night feeders and prefer to hunt near water. In the United Kingdom, they tend to eat Lepidoptera and Coleoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera, in amounts that change seasonally. These moths and beetles also have habitat requirements in order to breed in numbers sufficient to support bat populations. Bats prefer an open water source alongside their feeding grounds.
Step 3
Realize that preservation of the bat's food sources and hunting grounds are not sufficient to help the bat survive if access to proper roosting places (which require distance from human activity) is not also maintained. Bats may abandon the best sources for nesting and hunting if urban sprawl or human populations interfere with the bat's territory.

Intervention

Step 1
Leave hedgerows to grow tall and thick, relatively untrimmed. Avoid plowing pastures or using of potentially harmful chemicals on fields. Use treelines and fences to separate fields and wild areas, as these provide cover for the bats and conditions preferred by their prey. According to the University of Bristol School of Biological Sciences, habitats within 4 kilometers of roost sites should be preserved for greater horseshoe bats. Other species need a slightly smaller range.
Step 2
Preserve wooded areas. Lesser horseshoe bats in the United Kingdom prefer woodland foraging. In Italy, olive groves are important feeding grounds. Limit the amount of wide swaths of cut lands with no treeline breaks. Stop the practice of clear cutting to harvest wood products. Avoid planting forests of conifers alone to replace deciduous trees and mixed forest in cut woodland areas.
Step 3
Limit the spread of human populations. Swinny's horseshoe bat is found mainly in African countries and roosts in caves or old mines. It is gradually being forced solely into national park lands where savanna woodlands are protected. Loss of habitat is the greatest threat to this species. Population growth is only one factor. Humans searching for minerals or those who enjoy outdoor activities such as caving may discourage bats from using mines or caves to roost, driving the bats from habitat that could sustain them.
 

Article Written By Alice Moon

Alice Moon is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. She was chosen as a Smithsonian Institute intern, working for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has traveled throughout Asia. Moon holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from Ball State University.

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